Quarterback steps up for Irish in defeat

It was a different story for Notre Dame's No. 2 quarterback than in the Michigan game.

Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist departed early in Saturday's 28-27 loss to Tulsa. He exited after getting injured while scrambling right for 29 yards with 9:02 left in the first quarter. Crist will reportedly miss the rest of the season with ruptured tendon in his left knee.

Crist was replaced by freshman Tommy Rees, who finished with 334 yards passing on 33-of-54 attempts, with four touchdowns and three interceptions. According to the university, Rees is the first Notre Dame freshman to throw four touchdown passes in a game.

"Awesome," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly responded when asked to evaluate Rees' performance. "Are you kidding me? I couldn't be more happy for the kid. He just competes. He's a competitive kid. He loves to play."

Rees completed his first eight passes, a major contrast to his first career appearance after Crist was injured early against Michigan. Rees looked out of sync and was quickly pulled in favor of Nate Montana, who finished the first half before Crist returned.

One of Rees' three interceptions was a tipped ball returned for a touchdown; another came at the end of the half and caused little harm. The final one, however, came with under a minute left on an end-zone try that finished Notre Dame's chances of a comeback finish.

Defensive minded

After a disastrous performance against Navy, Notre Dame's defense again looked shaky early against Tulsa, which boasts one of the top offenses in the nation. The Golden Hurricane quickly moved for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead, with a nine-play, 67-yard drive ending on a 9-yard touchdown pass from G.J. Kinne to Damaris Johnson.

"On the first drive they had some looks that got us, but once we got off of the field and talked to the coaches and made some adjustments, we rebounded and held tough the rest of the game," Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith said.

In fact, that score was Tulsa's only offensive touchdown on the day. The Golden Hurricane scored on an interception return, a punt return, made two field goals, and added two points for returning a blocked extra point into the opposite end zone.s

Tulsa produced 399 yards of total offense, 203 on the ground and 196 passing.

Two crucial points

The aforementioned 2-point play was a big one, considering the final margin. The Irish scored on a Rees-to-Michael Floyd 10-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter to make it 7-6. David Ruffer's attempt was blocked by 6-foot-4 defensive lineman Cory Dorris, and Curnelius Arnick returned it for the 2 points (drawing a penalty for celebration after performing a flip in the end zone).

"We challenged our guys," Tulsa coach Todd Graham said of the blocked PAT. "We've been pretty good at it. It's something that we do very well. I think it was a low kick. We had a good push. It's all about effort."

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